ustxtxb_obs_1982_08_20_50_00005-00000_000.pdf

Page 18

by

thoughtful libertarian who believes that big defense budgets are as much to blame for big government as welfare programs, every other proponent of the amendment contacted by the Observer seems oblivious to these budgetary facts of life. They all argue that Congress has been too profligate and yet they profess support for Social Security, the current defense buildup, and last year’s tax cuts. Nor surprisingly, they have difficulty specifying which programs they would cut to balance the budget. Some speak wistfully of a future economic boom that will balance the budget by raising tax receipts and reducing the need for such programs as unemployment compensation and welfare even though the administration’s own rosy forecasts dismiss that possibility. Ralph Hall is one of those wistful optimists. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll have an upturn so we don’t have the deficits in the next two to four years,” he explains. And what if the boom doesn’t materialize? “I can’t see cutting Social Security,” Hall continues. “That’s a compact we have with the people. We shouldn’t cut that until we cut the last dollar out of foreign aid. But I realize if we cut foreign aid totally, we would cut but about 8, 9, or 10 billion dollars.” Hall knows that his solution would leave massive deficits and possibly provide an excuse to slash Social Security but that doesn’t seem to frighten him. “We’ve got to take a chance,” he says. “Franklin Roosevelt did. His was a new deal. His was dramatic, and his was something people thought was going to bring down the curtain on the world and on the economy. A lot of it was bad but some of it was good . . . So I think any move toward austerity, any move toward not just continuing our runaway deficits, has got to be good, whether it works or not.” NOT EVERYONE IN the Texas delegation is basing his support on wishful thinking. Several others are taking the Scarlett O’Hara approach they will worry about the consequences tomorrow, after the amendment has been ratified and they have been safely reelected for several more terms. According to Mickey Leland, this explains why the amendment has such strong support among his colleagues. “The proponents of this amendment are just looking for a short-term solution to their political problems. They’re saying, `yes, we want to continue Social Security’ but at the same time they know that if the amendment passes, everyone is going to have to suffer. But they’ll deal with that later,” Leland says. Leland’s assessment is probably correct. Bill Patman, for example, is quick to proclaim support for the amendment but he admits that he hasn’t the foggiest notion of how to balance the budget. “That’ll be a difficult decision,” he told the Observer. “I’m really not in favor of increasing taxes, and I feel like further going to be difficult to determine right now just what those cuts ought to be.” Bill Archer takes a similar approach. According to his aide Phil Mosely, the amendment will force Congress “to make whatever decisions they have got to make. They cannot say, ‘we don’t want to make those tough decisions so we are going to borrow to finance those decisions we cannot make.’ ” When it comes .to making those tough decisions, Moseley explains, “None of us is smart enough to know exactly what’s going to happen.” And besides, he continues, “I think Congress and all the authorizing committees are the ones that have to make those decisions. We don’t pretend to have a list of all the specific cuts we would make . . . We’re not going to try to make those decisions.” Ron Paul is the only member of the Texas delegation with the courage to spell out in detail how he would balance the budget. From his perspective, the solution entails cutting both guns and butter. The basic problem, he explains, is an “interventionist foreign policy and a transfer of wealth system that is out of control.” “Congress just spends for domestic programs that aren’t all that helpful and for military programs that I call rightwing CETA programs because you build weapons just to create jobs instead of having people rake leaves. Neither one serves our national interest. “Unless you repeal big government, a balanced budget isn’t going to prohibit spending. You can’t solve the problem of this great demand for government spending by taking a sheet of paper and saying, `you shouldn’t spend so much and you should balance your budget,’ ” says Paul. Since Paul believes that most of his conservative colleagues are not truly interested in repealing big government, he contends that “a lot of the support we get magogues. They come along and they talk about balancing the budget, but every day they have an opportunity to do of them are voting against big spending. So I think it’s a bit of a charade and I would like to separate myself from those who aren’t sincere.” While the proponents profess concern with runaway spending, vote for runaway defense budgets, and then refuse to pinpoint the programs they would eliminate, several of the amendment’s opponents are also guilty of vacillation. They do not like the amendment and are prepared to vote against it, but at the same time, they pay lip service to the concept of a balanced budget. Martin Frost, for example, declares that “I am actively working against the amendment and would not look kindly upon it if it reached the floor.” He goes on to explain that “I am perfectly willing to vote for a tax increase if it’s required to defend the programs that I think are important to this country. I don’t believe the only options facing us are to slash, slash, slash.” Yet in the next breath, Frost seems to share Reagan’s view that Congress is an irresponsible guardian of the purse strings. “We as a Congress have not acted responsibly. In the past 20 years we have had a balanced budget only once. Something needs to be done about that. Something has to be done about Congress’ unwillingness to balance the budget in good years,” he explains. Jim Mattox, one of the most eloquent and passionate opponents of the amendment, argues that it is “nothing more than a political gimmick for the Republicans.” “If you recall, Ronald Reagan ran on the promise of a balanced budget. He called Jimmy Carter’s $50 billion deficit an ‘utter complete disaster.’ And if that’s what you call a $50 billion deficit, I’m not sure what you would call his much larger deficits. “If Reagan truly wants to balance the budget, he could, but he has not been able to because of the unreasonably large tax reduction he gave to wealthy people. He is also seeking to raise defense expenditures from about 23% of the budget to about 37% by the end of 1987. And it’s obvious that if he’s going to have those kind of expenditures and maintain the reduction of revenue that took place under Kemp-Roth, he’s going to have to cut just about every single thing that’s funded by the federal government. So I think this amendment is nothing but a backdoor approach to cutting Social Security,” says Mattox. Before launching into his 15-minute tirade against the amendment, Mattox explained, “I generally support the concept of a balanced budget.” Unlike Mattox and Frost, Henry B. Gonzalez not only opposes the amendment, but also believes that budget balancing is a foolhardy exercise. “To me,” he explains, “the amendment just confirms what I have always felt that Reagan is sleazy, shoddy, and demagogic. You cannot balance the budget for a country that is dynamic even though the President reveals that his mentality is one of stagnation and blight. Budget balancing is a cult. I compare it to a giant Jonestown with the same effects of death and destruction.” What irks Gonzalez most is the claim that a business-like government would THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5